Editor’s note: On every remaining Sunday in 2020, the Star Tribune will republish a memorable Sid Hartman column from the archives. This is Sid’s column from the Oct. 26, 1983, edition of the Star Tribune after Gophers football coach Joe Salem had resigned.
Joe Salem called a meeting of his coaching staff for 6 p.m. Monday. But it was 6:20 when he walked into the coaches’ room. “It’s all over,” he said as he described his decision to resign as University of Minnesota football coach.
Salem’s decision came as no surprise to the assistant coaches, seven of whom joined the staff this year. Most of them have been looking for jobs the past month. Some already have landed posts.
Salem and athletic director Paul Giel had several meetings in recent weeks to talk about Salem’s future.
The crucial meeting was at 8:30 a.m. Monday. At that time, the decision was made for Salem to resign. They met again at 6 p.m. Monday to work out the final details of his contract settlement.
“I knew it might be over when the season started,” Salem said.
On Sunday, following the Northwestern loss, Salem told this writer: “I’m not going to be here next year.” He knew it was just a matter of time before the ax would fall. Giel thought it was best for Salem to resign. Salem agreed.
Giel has offered Salem a job as assistant athletic director. If the new coach agrees to work with Salem, this position would find Salem trying to get the big boys downtown to get involved in the football program, as they were during the Bernie Bierman days.
On Friday, Salem’s application will be discussed by a search committee selected to name the athletic director at Northern Arizona. But you wonder if Salem really wants to leave here.
“I would be an assistant to an assistant to an assistant at Minnesota,” he kidded. But this isn’t really true. He could be a very important figure in the Gopher athletic department, which needs somebody like Salem.
No athletic figure in this area has more character and charisma and is more popular than Joe Salem. He is loved by all. You never hear anybody say a word against him. There really wasn’t any fan pressure to replace him. He built up a following as a player and assistant coach under Murray Warmath. And all he did during his reign as Gopher football coach was to make more friends.
Magrath backs Giel
University President C. Peter Magrath praised Salem for his attitude. He also made it clear that Giel has his complete confidence.
“I hesitate to say that Paul has my support and confidence,” Magrath said. “You hear people say that when you give a vote of confidence they are in trouble. I’m sure there are people who criticize Giel, myself and others in the limelight. Giel has been a very good athletic director for the University of Minnesota.
“He has done the job. He has a total program that is very healthy. Football is the big banana as people see it. But if you look at the total program, he has been very effective in hiring coaches, helping to eliminate the deficit and in running a good program. It is very clear that Paul is going to make the critical decisions that concern the athletic department.”
New facilities needed
Giel realizes now that in order for the Gophers to compete in the Big Ten the football facilities have to be improved. A new football building with a modern weight room, modern locker room facilities and other features is needed. A bubble is necessary so that the Gophers can practice during bad weather in season and condition themselves over the winter.
“We did recruit a group of good football players the past two years,” Salem said. “The Metrodome was a big reason for that. But our facilities on the campus are terrible.”
Will pay a big salary
At $55,000 a year, Salem was the lowest-paid football coach in the Big Ten.
Giel is ready to pay the right coach a salary comparable with that paid to other winners in the Big Ten such as Mike White of Illinois, Hayden Fry of Iowa and Bo Schembechler of Michigan. All of them are in the $70,000-$80,000 range.
The calls started to come into Giel’s office shortly after the announcement was made of Salem’s resignation. One of them came from Tennessee coach Johnny Majors, who no doubt has an assistant or a friend he is trying to push. Giel will get plenty of these calls.
At this point there isn’t a leading candidate. A lot of names will be mentioned. Mike Shanahan, a former Gopher assistant now assistant head coach at the University of Florida, is interested in the job. Ex-Gopher Roger French, now at Brigham Young, is already campaigning for the post. Les Steckel, the effective Viking assistant, would like to check on the job.
Tom Moore, former Gopher assistant and now offensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers, will be mentioned.
“I have a job right now,” Moore said Tuesday. “My big interest at the present is helping coach the Steelers to the Super Bowl. I liked living in Minnesota. And I enjoyed my stay at the university. I may be interested in talking to Paul Giel.”
Dan Devine, the former Arizona State, Missouri, Green Bay and Notre Dame football coach, may also talk to Giel.